Everything old is new again as two of the week’s best DVD releases are for films that are decades old including Giorgio Moroder’s 1984 redo of Fritz Lang’s classic Metropolis with music by Freddy Mercury, Loverboy and other 80s superstars. But don’t fret, there are also some solid new films to check out this week including Bellflower, Griff the Invisible, The Warring States and more.
As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
Krzysztof Kieslowski’s thematic trilogy looks at France’s motto: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. Blue stars Juliette Binoche as a woman who suffers a terrible loss and attempts to free herself from life and its responsibilities with a kind of slow-motion suicide, but she instead finds true freedom through healing. Red features Irene Jacob as a young woman whose solitude is slowly shattered by unexpected friendships. And I have no clue what White is about. I haven’t even seen Criterion’s new set yet, but even a Criterion release of just Blue and Red would warrant an automatic purchase.
Pitch: When you think Fritz Lang, you will think Adam Ant…
Why Buy? Fritz Lang’s 1927 classic seems more than a little timely today. It features a world divided in two with the oppressed workers down below and the wealthy 1% living a carefree existence above. One man leaves the surface to go looking for a woman he glimpsed amidst the commoners and finds love as well as a cause. In 1984 composer Giorgio Moroder oversaw a new edition of the film complete with superficial changes alongside a major overhaul to the soundtrack. Loverboy, Bonnie Tyler, Pat Benetar, and more are used to dramatic effect, and while their tunes may not feel timeless Lang’s film most certainly is.
Pitch: “Is the chair gay?” “No, the chair’s not gay…”
Why Rent? Oliver (Ewan McGregor) meets the possible love of his life (Melanie Laurent) mere months after his father (Christopher Plummer) passed away which itself was mere months after his father announced he was gay. He reflects back on his childhood and the last year while struggling to move forward with his own life. Writer/director Mike Mills’ film is at times sweet and funny, and it’s very well intentioned but a slow pace and disjointed editing keep it from being a better movie. Although the rewrite of Christ’s death is an inspired gag. Plus, you know, Melanie Laurent. Check out Luke Mullen’s full review here.
Pitch: Two friends one car…
Why Rent? Woodrow (writer/director Evan Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson) are slackers in their professional lives but industrious in their free time as they imagine, design and build flame throwers and a souped up muscle car suitable for the Australian Outback. When Woodrow meets the messed up love of his life things take a turn for the ridiculously dramatic, and he’s forced to let out his inner Humongous. There’s quite a bit to like about this indie film, but unfortunately Glodell’s acting gets in the way of a lot of it. He whines his way through scenes that should have been endearing, but luckily Dawson makes up for it with charisma and charm as the best friend who stays true through the ups and downs of a made up apocalypse. Glodell’s strengths are evident in the look and feel of the film, so hopefully he won’t feel compelled to cast himself as the lead next time around. Check out Adam Charles’ full review here.
Pitch: The star of Battlestar Galactica! The star of Fall Guy! The star of Knot’s Landing! And that woman who spread her legs in Basic Instinct…
Why Rent? A young couple trying to make it as farmers in Amish country run afoul of the local Hittite community headed up by Ernest Borgnine. They view the wife as an incubus, and when the husband dies in a mysterious accident things begin to get weird for all involved. And by weird I mean people start dying in violent ways. This early effort from Wes Craven manages some decent scares and creepy scenes as well as an ending that would be stolen by Sam Raimi years later. **NOTE – This is a region2 DVD which requires either a region-free player or the willingness to watch on your PC.**
Pitch: We all have an Australian superhero inside of us…
Why Rent? Ryan Kwanten plays a sweet, mild mannered young man who spends his nights fighting crime. Maybe. His elaborate world threatens to come crashing down when he meets the equally quirky love of his life who just happens to be dating his cocky and far more successful brother. This is probably the best of the “real person plays superhero” subgenre since John Ritter donned tights for Hero at Large, and credit for that is due evenly between the actors and writer/director Leon Ford. Check out my full review here.
Pitch: The longest running machinima series ever. It’s like The Simpson’s of game engine cinema…
Why Rent? The latest season of Red vs Blue is a prequel of sorts as it moves from the past to the future of the Blood Gulch universe with a story about military intelligence gone awry. As usual, hilarity ensues. The Halo series has had a long life in the gaming community, but when Master Chief’s adventures first premiered no one could have expected a comedy series made by fans using the in-game engine would run equally as long. This is good stuff, and I could easily see it airing on FX paired up with Archer.
Pitch: It’s not just a title, it’s the order in which the three things can be found in the movie. Lots of Rio, a solid amount of sex, and very little comedy…
Why Rent? Multiple storylines and characters run through this film about people falling in love, having sex, and discussing class distinctions throughout the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Bill Pullman plays a US Ambassador looking for social change, Charlotte Rampling plays a plastic surgeon questioning people’s desire, and Daniela Dams just looks fantastic as a frequently nude Native Indian in a relationship with Fischer Stevens. Yeah, I can’t explain that last part either. It’s an odd film in that a good third of it is focused on class differences and the real life dramas of the city’s lower class. That’s not a bad thing, but it makes the title a bit inappropriate and misleading.
Pitch: They’re not called feudal times for nothing…
Why Rent? A great military strategist named Sun Bin is lured down from the mountains to assist on the field of battle, but when his brother, Pang Juan, wants in on the action he sets Bin up and sends the man to prison. Bin eventually gets out and returns to planning combat maneuvers, and soon the two brothers are going head to head for the last time. Period epics have become their own mini-genre in Asian cinema, and what this one lacks in star power it makes up for in scale and beauty. There’s a bit too much CGI used in the wide shots, but it’s balanced with practical blood work.
Pitch: Andy Lau is a respectable replacement for Mel Gibson, but Gong Li in the Helen Hunt role? Hell yes…
Why Rent? An ad exec (Andy Lau) expecting a promotion is disgusted to learn that a female new hire (Gong Li) has gotten it instead, but when an unexpected congruence of electrical shock and birth control pills gives him the ability to hear women’s thoughts he turns the tables on his feminine competition. This Hong Kong remake of the Nancy Meyers “classic” follows the original fairly closely but lacks much in the way of real laughs. Still, Li wears a lot of cleavage-baring blouses so there’s that.
Pitch: Curious what bland actors look like in front of CGI and green-screened backdrops? Wonder no more…
Why Avoid? The Duke of Milan has been murdered, and the plot behind his killing can only be unraveled by the inventor of parkour, Giovanni Auditore (aka the father of the main character from the Assassin’s Creed video games). The games are tons of fun, something sorely missing from this miniseries. The characters are far from engaging and the story is a bit convoluted, but the biggest problem is that the majority of scenes feature CGI backdrops suitable for a game but not a movie. They distract from the live actors and destroy the film’s already paltry atmosphere. Skip it and watch The Name of the Rose instead.
Pitch: Shut it as soon as you can…
Why Avoid? Every month during the full moon a group of people commit murder and/or suicide, and this month it’s a gaggle of the most annoying goddamn teenagers you’ve ever seen. This direct to DVD horror flick opens with an intriguing scene and premise, but it then devotes almost a full hour to these teenagers acting like assholes and the lead heroine listening to a talk radio program that may be behind the killings while nothing of any interest happens. The horror action doesn’t start until the final twenty minutes, and if ever there was a case of too little too late it’s this thing. Skip it and watch The Amityville Horror instead.
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:
Being Human: The Complete First Season
The Drummond Will
It Takes a Thief: The Complete Series
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Rules of the Game (Criterion)
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?